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Conquer Dyslexia and Learning Disabilities and SOAR!​​​​



...for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. Psalm 63:7

It is possible for those with dyslexia and learning disabilities to learn to read, write, perform math calculations, learn to spell, remember assignments, develop an excellent vocabulary, comprehend what they are reading, and complete assignments on time.
In short, it is possible to overcome dyslexia and learning disabilities and take flight,
soaring into the future with hope and success. And who does not want help? When given the help needed, they can indeed sing for joy. Parents and teachers, among others, do want this for all children! 


​"Two great things you can give your chidren: one is roots,
the other is wings." —Hodding Carter


Roots are given by parents in particular, and by community in general: heritage, character, and the supportive foundation for each child's life. Wings can be developed and strengthened, and the art of flying can be learned. Every child can soar with joy. Come and join me in this adventure.
    
What Is Dyslexia? Fact vs. Fiction
There are many misconceptions about dyslexia, what it is and isn't, and the graphic above clears up some of these. Dyslexia is not a problem of intelligence, motivation or vision; it is a difference in how the brain receives and processes information related to language and reading. It is not something that one can "grow out of", so delaying help in learning to read will only cause a child to fall farther behind their peers. Dyslexia occurs on a sliding scale, from 'mild', to 'moderate', 'severe', and even 'profound'. All dyslexics (depending on associated conditions) can benefit from a simultaneously multisensory explicit and systematic phonics program, as are the Orton-Gillingham influenced reading programs, including the Barton Reading & Spelling System, which is the main system wingsTutor uses.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

If the parents have dyslexia, there is a strong possibility that the child will also have dyslexia, because it runs in families. However, even in this day and age, many parents will be unaware that they have dyslexia, because they were never diagnosed. It can be a clue for educators and parents although only a certified professional has the ability to diagnose dyslexia, or any learning disability. (Please see this link (7) for information on how to get diagnosed.) A suspected disability can lead to early intervention which benefits the child the most. If you suspect any learning disability, start by talking to the child's doctor, teachers and administrators, who should be able to begin the process for diagnosis. But every struggling child can benefit from one-on-one tutoring with or without a formal diagnosis of dyslexia or other learning disabilities.


One key point that is often overlooked is that people who have dyslexia are also clearly gifted in other areas, often due to the very brain differences that create the dyslexia in the first place. This is covered in the section "Dyslexia Strengths"; also see the graphic below. Detailed information can be found here (1) and here (2). 

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”Albert Einstein
Symptoms of Dyslexia: What to Look For
People with dyslexia can have varying symptoms, because someone with mild dyslexia will not be displaying as many difficulties as someone with severe or profound dyslexia. Additionally, varying symptoms may be evident in varying stages of life. (This list is not meant to be comprehensive. For complete information please see ​​​​​ here  (6).)
  • Preschoolers may have some of the following: delayed speech; chronic ear infections; constantly mixing up the sounds and syllables in longer words ('pas-ghetti', instead of 'spaghetti'); late establishing a dominant hand; extreme difficulty learning to tie their shoes, or any task requiring the mastery of consecutive steps; may stutter; and can't create words that rhyme. 
  • Primary and middle school age children may have difficulty writing and extreme difficulty learning cursive; they can't remember sight words or sound out unknown words; have difficulty telling time on an analog clock; possible problems with math; have very messy bedroom, backpack and desk; dreads going to school and may have nightmares about school.
  • High schoolers may have some or all of the symptoms above as well as poor vocabulary; wide discrepancy between verbal skills and written assignments (they can give a convincing speech but a very poor written report); and have poor grades in many classes. Many drop out of school, because they feel 'stupid'.
  • Adults will have an educational history similar to those above. They may also be a slow reader; a terrible speller; still have difficulty distinguishing right from left; and often get lost, even in familiar surroundings, or may not be able to read a map.

​In general, there is a developmental stage early in life where the brain of a dyslexic fails to make certain language connections; that makes it difficult to learn to read. This can be overcome with adequate teaching materials and trained tutors, and is actually a process of 'training the brain' to make those connections, so the dyslexic is enabled to learn to read. It is worthwhile to note that the alternate connections that are made in these dyslexic brains often lead to tremendous and ingenius inventions and solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems. The graphic on the below shows a model of dyslexia, with a weakness—decoding reading— surrounded by a sea of strengths. wingsTutor is  dedicated to uncovering the amazing abilities and talents of the dyslexic. (9)
​​​​​​​​​​​The Tremendous Strengths of the Dyslexic Brain
In this 17 minute video, advocate and educator Dean Bragonier discusses the amazing giftedness of those with dyslexia. Did you know, 1 out of 2 "rocket scientists" are dyslexic! A large percentage of the most successful architects, engineers, and entreprenuers are dyslexic. Unfortunately, a large percentage of the prison population is also dyslexic: they are the ones who have become convinced they were too stupid to continue learning, and in anger, shame, and humiliation, unnecessarily gave up. 
There are many assistive materials to help you and your child discover their strengths. I highly recommend the website understood.org (11). The website madebydyslexia.org ​(12) also ennumerates specific strengths of the dyslexic brain. ​​

It is well worth the time to sit down with your dyslexic child (or each of your dyslexic children!) to help them uncover their specific strengths. Remember the model above shows a "sea of strengths" surrounding one weakness (or two, or three). Don't let them sit in the boat on top of their weakness! Throw them a lifeline to their strengths. Many dyslexics must wait until after school to flourish, when they're no longer forced to squeeze into the confines of formal education—like square pegs in round holes. There is so much else they could be accomplishing, not the least of which is feeling good about themselves and their abilities.


It is of the utmost importance to help a dyslexic find their strengths, and especially the older they get. Depending on how many years they have been in school and how many accommodations they have (or have not) received, they may have had many blows to their self-esteem. If they already believe they are stupid, lazy and hopeless; if they believe they can never learn; if their anger, shame and humiliation is great—it is crucial that they obtain a new focus and tap into the abundance of strengths they already possess. Unfortunately, it is possible that they are completely unaware of any strengths, and even unwilling to consider that they could be "good" at anything. The stigma of being unable to read runs deep.

But each one has endowments in areas such as personal strengths, including character, hobbies and problem-solving skills; social strengths, such as making friends and keeping them, being able and willing to comfort others, resisting peer pressure, being able and willing to apologize when needed; language strengths, such as enjoying being with people and being able to carry on a good conversation, being a good storyteller, and learning the words to new songs; literacy strengths (yes! literacy!) including connecting what they read with their personal experiences, making predictions about 'what happens next' in a story, remembering details and retelling stories after reading them; math and logic strengths, including doing math in their head, solving puzzles and word problems and playing strategy games; and other strengths including drama, music, dance, sports, art, and community service—so allow them to focus on what they are good at, even while they are struggling to learn to read, spell, write, and comprehend.​ ( 11 , 12 )
​​​​​​​​​​​How wingsTutor Can Help You
Why Get Help?

R​​​​​esearch has shown that 1 in 5 people are affected by dyslexia or a learning disability. It isn't embarassing or demeaning to get help. Reading is basic to all learning, and the foundation must be strong or the building will eventually crumble. 

95% of reading failure is preventable! By using appropriate reading systems and well-trained teachers and tutors, it is possible to overcome the obstacles to learning presented by dyslexia and other learning disabilities. 
Why ​​​​​​wingsTutor?

wingsTutor is trained in the Barton Reading & Spelling System, and slow and frustrated readers using this system are meeting with great success. This is an effective, one-on-one tutoring system for children, teenagers, and adults who struggle with spelling, reading and writing. It is an Orton-Gillingham influenced simultaneously multisensory explicit and systematic phonics program—and the most highly rated system for teaching those with dyslexia. 

wingsTutor is experienced and is local to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.
These Are My Students 
If your child is only a little bit behind in reading, you might not need a specialist such as ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​wingsTutor. There are many tutors who charge less who can help a child catch up in reading. I specialize in those who are struggling with comprehension, spelling and writing as well as reading.

The child I work with often spends hours studying for the Friday spelling test, but cannot retain those spelling words from one week to the next (and sometimes not even for the spelling test). They cannot spell when writing sentences and stories, not even those high frequency words like said, because, friend, and does.

When they write, they just cannot remember that a sentence must start with a capital letter, and that there needs to be punctuation at the end.

Some of my students can read fluently, but cannot tell you what they have read, even after reading the same paragraph several times.

Although many of my students CAN read (usually with considerable effort), they have great difficulty sounding out an unknown word, even if they were taught phonics.

Many of my students have had trouble learning to tie their shoes, or other sequential tasks, because they cannot recall the steps, or the order of the steps. They may not know, or may have difficulty repeating the alphabet in sequence.

They have tremendous difficulty memorizing things such as their address and telephone number, math facts, and multiplication tables.

They often have an unusual pencil grip, and uneven letters or illegible penmanship. They may find it difficult to drop some letters below the line (such as 'g' and 'p').

The adults I work with will not be able to read or they will read very slowly and haltingly, and those who do read will have a poor vocabulary, although there is a wide discrepancy between how they write letters or reports (short, choppy sentences with limited vocabulary) and how they speak (fluently, with a large vocabulary). They may also be a terrible speller; still have difficulty distinguishing right from left; and often get lost, even in familiar surroundings. They may not be able to read a map.

These are the students wingsTutor specializes in. Sound like anyone you know?
If people understood their own dyslexia,
this is what they would want you to know:

I am NOT stupid or lazy!
I can still shine in many ways.
When I "get it", it sticks.
Smaller steps are much easier for me.
Sometimes I just need to work in a different way.
I do get frustrated; please be patient.
My dyslexia affects more than just my literacy skills.
Visual reminders help me remember.
Noises can be distracting; I like to work in a quiet place.
My dyslexia does not define who I am, or who I want to be.
The Tutoring Details
Effective dyslexia tutoring requires a commitment from all involved. Since the brain of a dyslexic functions differently (not "wrong" or "poorly", just "differently"), much of the tutoring is aimed at wiring the brain circuits to use areas that haven't been utilized. This under-use has caused a 'glitch' in systematic information processing, making reading confusing and difficult. A student must have a minimum of 2 hours of one-on-one intensive instruction weekly, in order for them to absorb and retain the new information they are learning. It's similar to tearing down an unsafe building, pouring a new foundation, and carefully and skillfully rebuilding. It is not an instant 'fix', and your child will not start reading perfectly after the first few lessons. More intensive instruction, 3-5 hours weekly, is the best way to 'speed through' the program.

The Barton Reading & Spelling System consists of ten levels of instruction, and each level has several lessons. The first two levels go fairly quickly, and most students finish these two levels in just a few weeks. However, it must be stressed that a student is never 'pushed' or pressured to 'learn quickly' and is always allowed to go at their own pace. At the end of Level 2 the student will understand several basic concepts, all the short vowel sounds, and all the consonant and digraph sounds. This does not make them able to read at their grade level, however. It is important to note that the levels do not correspond to a grade level—Level 1 is not First Grade, Level 2 is not Second Grade, and so on. But in my personal tutoring experience, the child will notice definite improvements. The tools they are given in tutoring allow them to immediately improve in decoding, spelling, and comprehension, even if they are not yet at grade level. This provides an incredible boost in self-esteem and confidence, as they realize they can now do things they couldn't before. Reading begins to make sense to them. 

It is worthwhile to note that most dyslexic children above the third grade are already suffering with anger, shame, humiliation and low self-esteem due to their inability to read as well as their peers. They often require a serious conversation about the nature of their dyslexia: how it is affecting their ability to read, but not their intelligence, and that they are not 'trying to find excuses', 'stupid', or 'lazy'. At wingsTutor I am happy to provide this service, since there is an almost immediate improvement in the child's attitude towards themselves and towards learning to read. They start to believe it is possible!


























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Although it takes time to move from level to level, it is normal to finish all ten levels within (roughly) three years, taking the student up to grade 9.5 (first year of high school). It is common for a Barton student to start at the bottom of their reading class and move up to the top of their class over a fairly short period of time (some in less than one year!). There are no quick fixes or instant successes, but there is opportunity to overcome dyslexia and succeed in learning to read well. The benefits of this system do not dissipate, slow down or end after the tutoring is completed; the skills learned become permanent and the student learns to enjoy reading and will continue to progress on their own.

We request an initial parental interview (free) discussing your child's needs; answering any questions you may have; determining details regarding place and time of tutoring; reviewing a simple tutoring agreement; and expounding specifics of the parents' role and the services provided by the tutor. There is also a short, simple (free) screening for the student which will clarify if the Barton Reading & Spelling system will fit their needs and be truly beneficial for them. 
What About The Cost?
Suppose your child had a medical condition, such as diabetes or a peanut allergy; you would be willing to do whatever it would take to make and keep them healthy and safe. You would do whatever needed to be done to get them all the help they needed, no matter how many professionals you had to call on.

Tutoring is an investment in the future. It can be expensive, but so is illness, and so are lessons in gymnastics, karate, or music and dance. Here are some suggestions and tips to help make it more affordable:

  • Group sessions are not effective, since each individual learns at their own rate, and no one can progress faster than the slowest learner in any particular group. Get a list of tutors in your area ( see link (3)), and compare rates.  Remote tutoring is now an available option, also here (3). 
  • You can become a Barton tutor yourself, since complete training is provided with the system materials. Please see link (4) to learn more about this option. However, most busy parents find it is worthwhile to have an experienced tutor teaching their child—especially one who has studied dyslexia and learning disabilities.
  • Parents who are dyslexic may benefit from being tutored themselves, at which point they could then tutor their own children. This is a great option especially for homeschool families. Second-hand course materials are available at a reduced rate through some homeschool associations, at online auction sites, or here (5) below. ​
  • Public schools in most states are now required to provide specific assistance for dyslexia students and may be convinced (by determined and patient parents) to purchase and use the Barton Reading & Spelling System, although to the best of my knowledge only a few are doing so at this time. This option may still be a few years into the future. (Since it is a one-on-one tutoring system, it is difficult for a school system to justify the expense; however, once they see how effective it is, funds can be found.)​ Perhaps your child's school will have a list of tutors you could call to compare rates and availability. Check with the teachers and administrators and find out what your school has available for your child. 
​​
“There's a limit that you will not be able to go past 
if you do not understand the importance of reading.” —Eric Thomas
There is a standard fee per week (a minimum of two hours per week is required). Discounts may be applied to your rate, depending on the agreement between the parents and wingsTutor. Tutoring sessions are standing appointments. Fees are charged on a monthly basis.
 
wingsTutor offers family discounts for more than one child, flexible hours, flexible locations, and free screening. Give me a call, 540.896.4983, and let's get started.
Advocacy and Accommodations For Dyslexia
Advocacy
If your child had a medical condition, such as diabetes or a peanut allergy, you would be willing to do whatever it would take to make and keep them healthy and safe. You would need regular doctor visits, special medicine, an EpiPen, syringes, and possibly several visits to the emergency room—when it is most inconvenient.  You would learn everything possible about their condition so that you could help them the most. You would want to talk to your neighbors, friends, teachers and others who had regular contact with your child, to alert them to watch out for your child when you weren't around: you would give them specific information and instructions on 'what to do if...' so that your child would be cared for when you weren't available. You would be very specific and very insistant that your child definitely *requires* these exact accommodations to save their life! You would stand up to "Mr. Brash" who decided that it wouldn't hurt your child to have 'just one' can of Coke or 'just one' Snickers bar—because your child's life depends on following specific guidelines. Would you be ashamed of a child who had such medical needs? Of course not! Would you be embarassed by and for them? Of course not!


I need to also add here that when your child responds well to their medications and the avoidance of peanuts (or whatever specific), you will NEVER hear the doctor say, "Well, you are doing so well that we are going to take you off all your meds and see how you get along." That is what happens when some students are denied accommodations because "they are doing so well and we don't want them to become dependent on this." How utterly absurd! Don't let an uninformed teacher or administrator do such a thing to your child. It would be the same as taking away wheelchair ramps, "because you are getting along so well with them we don't want you to become dependent on having a ramp everywhere you go." 

Some people believe that accommodations are "cheating", especially things like audio books and calculators. Do they also think a wheelchair is cheating? Or handrails in the restroom? Does a child who can get around in their wheelchair have an unfair advantage because they are no longer confined to the table? Are eyeglasses an unfair advantage?Accommodations are not CHEATING, and they are not UNFAIR. What they really do is LEVEL the playing field so that every child has a chance to demonstrate what they know and what they can do.


We need to be standing up for people with dyslexia and other learning disabilities in the same way. Perhaps they will live if we don't, but will their spirit survive? It is terribly embarassing to be unable to read—and to have to admit it publicly, such as in a classroom. The humiliation, anger, and shame can cripple a child for life—which is why so many dyslexics drop out of school. So first, we need to protect them from these devastating blows, through education and advocacy. Then we need to do whatever is necessary to make it possible for them to read and be able to express their gifts and intelligences in other areas by making sure they have the necessary accommodations. 

Not too surprisingly, there is a very good website devoted to legally advocating for our children with the public school system, at  writeslaw.com (13).
Learning Accommodations
Due to the very nature of dyslexia—that a bright child has difficulty reading, writing, and spelling—accommodations can be made to make it possible for the child to learn in their own best way.  
  • Voice recognition software allows dictation of thoughts and answers; it types what the student says, will spell it correctly, and can read it back to the student to allow for editing.
  • Audio books should be a staple for all dyslexic students, especially for textbooks, which are the most difficult to learn to read, due to new and unfamiliar ideas, words, and concepts.
  • Screen-reading software can be used for any computer application. The child can read along as much as possible to learn new words. And with headphones there is no danger of disturbing other children or the teacher.

​Many of these are reviewed here (10), which also provides links for video demonstrations. 
Classroom  Accommodations
Classroom accommodations are not a change in curriculum. The regular education teachers simply make slight changes in the way they present new information, the way they help the student learn new skills, and the way they test the student. These can allow the student to follow the same lesson plan as the rest of the class and be able to prove their knowledge, even though they are not yet reading, spelling and writing at grade level. 

Simple changes do not mean a separate lesson plan; they can be as easy as:
  • oral tests,
  • untimed tests,
  • reducing or eliminating spelling tests,
  • accepting dictated homework,
  • reducing copying and notetaking tasks,
  • grading on content, not spelling or penmanship, 
  • alternatives to a lengthy written paper,
  • avoiding essay tests whenever possible, and
  • never requiring reading out loud in front of the class.

Also, allow the child to use technology tools the parent is willing to purchase to work around any weak areas, including the learning accommodations listed above. These accommodations will allow the school to grade the child based on actual knowledge of the subject matter, and not necessarily the peripherals like penmanship and perfect spelling which can be so difficult for the student with dyslexia. Additional information and suggestions on ways to implement these accommodations can be found here (7), under the tab 'How To Get Help' and the section 'Classroom Accommodations'.
   ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
“I am not a teacher,
but an awakener.” 
― Robert Frost
    
Please don't "throw your child to the lions", and expect them to advocate for themselves, unless you have taught them how to do so. A child who is mocked for not being able to read may be too angry and embarrassed to ask for the accommodations they desperately need, and not all teachers are educated about the problems associated with dyslexia, and may suggest that the child should "stop being lazy and stop looking for excuses." That would be devastating to the child.























​​I must repeat: people with dyslexia and learning disabilities are NOT lazy; they are NOT stupid and they are NOT looking for excuses. But not everyone knows this. That's why it is so important for the parent to fight for their child. Also, do whatever is possible to help your child uncover their gifted areas. Remember, "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” (Albert Einstein) Everyone else may be climbing trees, but as a 'fish' they are far better at swimming, and will excel in that above their classmates.

Let them spread their wings and SOAR!​
Other Learning Disabilities
​Let me restate that although I have studied learning disabilities in depth, I do not have a degree in LD and do not consider myself to be an expert. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​My desire in sharing this information here is simply to inform you of other difficulties besides dyslexia. More detailed information regarding other learning difficulties can be found on the webpages wings ADHD and wings LD .

When a child of normal intelligence fails to master the basic schooled skills of thinking, listening, speaking, reading, spelling, writing, and math, they are considered to have a learning disability. There are many learning disabilities that come under that definition, and for some, the Barton Reading & Spelling System is not the most effective. The graphic below does not encompass all learning difficulties, and there are many shown. It can seem overwhelming to a lay person, which is why it is strongly suggested that if you suspect a learning disability, you should speak with a doctor, teacher and/or school administrators who can set you on the right path to understanding their needs and receiving appropriate help  (7).

Keep in mind that one person may have more than one problem area, for instance, someone with dyslexia may also have APD or ADHD. An excellent comprehensive overview video of learning disabilities from understood.org can be found here (8). (Information about my personal struggles can be found on the webpage wingsADHD, and detailed information regarding other learning differences can be found at wingsLD.)

​The Barton Reading & Spelling System is not recommended for disabilities related to autism spectrum disorders, emotional disturbances, visual and auditory processing disorders, or physical affectations that require surgery and/or medical intervention, such as dysphasia (the inability to speak or understand words due to a brain lesion). Dyscalculia (difficulty with numbers) and dysgraphia (difficulty with writing) are not specifically addressed by the Barton system, but these conditions may be helped. 

There definitely ARE ways to help those who have these disabilities! For instance, comprehension and executive function disabilities can be greatly improved with training in using graphic organizers; ADHD students can be helped by classroom accommodations, bullet organizers, and sometimes ​​changes in environment and diet. (14) Ask if wingsTutor can help with your specific area of concern.  

A professional can give guidance regarding methods and systems that will help a student overcome these and other disabilities. I am not aware of, and not trained in, all the systems that can help all learning disabilities, but there are professionals who can (7).​



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Links Referenced Above
Although you can simply click on the link in the text, some of the links have notes attached
(below) that you may find helpful.
  1. < http://brightsolutions.us > This site has extensive information under the tab 'What Is Dyslexia?' Highly recommended.
  2. < https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/getting-started/what-you-need-to-know/learning-and-attention-issues-fast-facts >  Information on symptoms of different learning disabilities; a good place to start if you suspect a problem but don't know what it might be.
  3. < http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/1351080/Request-for-Tutor-List >
    ​Find a certified Barton tutor or a certified Remote tutor
  4. < https://bartonreading.com/tutors/#bat > Become a Barton tutor
  5. < https://bartonreading.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Used-Levels.pdf > Get pre-owned levels at a discount
  6. < http://www.dys-add.com/resources/RecentResearch/DysWarningSigns.pdf > Learning problems to watch for
  7. < http://brightsolutions.us > Go to the tab 'How to Get Help' , in the section 'Testing'
  8. < https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/getting-started/what-you-need-to-know/video-an-overview-of-different-kinds-of-learning-disabilities > overview of different learning disabilities
  9. < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dPyzFFcG7A > excellent video on the true gifts of the dyslexic
  10. < http://www.dys-add.com/getHelp.html#anchorTechTools > all kinds of tech tools, with links to video demos
  11. Check out all the excellent resources at this site.
  12. Dyslexic thinking as a strength.
  13. Advocating for our children.
  14.